I, not for the first time, ran for my life…..
I tore down the hill, I could hear nothing buy my own frantic breathing and the sound of my heavy footfall. I could sense that someone or something was behind me. Despite my panic part of my brain tried to logically rationalise the situation. The Oregon Joker couldn’t be alive, he had been executed. Sent to death for all his twisted crimes, against me, Jack and countless others. But, I definitely saw his face at the top of the lighthouse. That face would forever be etched in my mind, I only had to close my eyes and I could see him chasing me down the spiral steps, laughing and taunting me. The wind rushed through my hair the salt of the sea drying my eyelids, I spin to a stop and realise that at some point I had transferred to the upper headland trail. So instead of heading back to civilisation I was now heading along and up the coastline, a rocky abyss on one side and darkness and ditches on the other. I take a deep and hard breath, I am practically wheezing. It is way too dark to be this far up the path and all around is inky blackness, apart from a small patch around me bathed in moonlight. Dark night clouds drift across the moon, like pirate ghost ships sailing to no where.
As I regain my breath I start to feel foolish, the trauma of my past again having the last laugh, taunting me for my inability to forget. Jack and I had been stupid kids, who had read too much Stephen King and watched too much Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Driven by revenge and youthful naiveté we had set on the trail of “The Joker”, convinced we could capture him. We had dangerously interfered with the FBI hunt and it had almost cost our lives, it had certainly cost me years of pain and grief. Of course revenge is hard to resist especially as my mum, India Derwent, had been the last known victim of “The Joker” and that had been the impetus for my reckless pursuit of him 20 years ago. I had no regrets, I smiled sadly to myself, remembering my beautiful mum, so gentle and fun, I closed my eyes and I could see her clearly, long brown hair and flowing paisley skirt. I could even hear her voice “Charlie don’t be afraid darling, monsters aren’t real, it’s the ghosts you gotta watch out for”. I chuckled, she had had a wonderful sense of humour and had been my hero. I forced away a tear, willing it to rise back into the well and never re-appear.
Repeating a mantra Sophie had recommended for calm I opened my eyes and decided to head back down. I would get back to my hotel and try phoning Jack in the morning, there was bound to be an innocent explanation for his no-show. I wouldn’t be coming back here though, first thing in the morning I would hop on a Greyhound back home to Sophie. She was the calm in the chaotic storm of my existence and I wished she was here right now, she always knew the right thing to say. I had got no more than 20 yards when I heard a crunch on the ground behind me, I turned slightly but stumbled and in correcting my fall I dislodged a rock at the edge of the path. The path gave way and I started to fall over the edge but I managed to twist and somehow grab a tuft of grass and earth, I was now hanging off the edge of the cliff holding on for dear life.
There was just jagged rocks, icy sea and death below me so I needed to pull myself back onto the path. I started to scrabble back up when swimming out of the darkness came that terrible face, mascara roughly around his eyes, a twisted grin painted in garish red and of course his hair and that unmistakable voice. “BOO”, followed by his haunting cackle, booming out into the indifferent ocean.
In my fear and disbelief I let go of the hill and plummeted to the merciless rocks below….